When it comes to the decision on whether or not to impose tariffs on imported solar cells and modules, the Trump Administration appears to be using an uncharacteristic level of caution.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Trade Representative sent a letter to the ITC asking for a supplemental report on the trade case to assist the President in making a decision. Significantly, Ambassador Lighthizer has asked the commission to identify any “unforseen developments” that led to an increase in imports.
As has been reported in Bloomberg and other publications, such an investigation into unforseen circumstances may be a way of ensuring that whatever trade action the Trump Administration undertakes is not reversed by the World Trade Organization.
However, there is another wrinkle to this. According to Inside U.S. Trade and reporter Isabelle Hoagland, this will push back the timeline for the entire 201 case. ITC will have 30 days to produce a report, and Trump will have 30 days after receipt of the report to make a decision – meaning that the deadline for a final decision will move from January 12 to January 26, 2018.
This adds another two weeks of uncertainty. Such uncertainty has already been problematic for the solar industry, with projects being put on hold until a final trade remedy decision and thus module prices and availability can be determined.